Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Separated Twins: More Common than Generally Believed

The recent reunification story of two girls adopted by different families points out a problem that we have noticed for many years.  After one of the families contacted us for her daughter's finding ad, we notified them that we also had information that indicated their daughter was a twin. Foster family records, which we obtained on a research project to that area, indicated that although the orphanage had known they were twins, they had separated the girls in the belief that it would be easier to adopt the two girls separately.

This story has created a lot of interest in the adoption community, and efforts are now underway to identify other such "separated twins." A new Facebook group has been created to comb through and identify possible twin sets in our orphanage data books, the most effective way of identifying such twins. Families on this group are searching their child's data book for children with the same finding date and location, same birth dates, and twin names. In the case of the two children in the story above, even though the orphanage had changed the finding date of one of the two girls, their names strongly implied that they were related. Taken individually, neither name stood out as anything but a traditional orphanage name, but when the last characters of the two girls' names were combined, the word for "Rose" was formed. When the names of two children form such a combination, it is significant evidence, when combined with similar finding data, that the two children are related.

We have created a listing of similar "separated twins," based on similar names, finding data, and other criteria. If your child is on this list, it is very likely that a sibling was adopted by another family (all of these children were internationally adopted).

The following list is a work-in-progress, and will be updated as new potential twins are identified. You can assist in this work if you have purchased your child's orphanage data book and notice unusual pairings.  Please let us know and we can research them further.

Potential Twins

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Book Review: Leslie Wang's Outsourced Children: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China

Leslie K. Wang’s book “Outsourced Children: Orphanage Care and Adoption in Globalizing China” is a well-researched treatise on China’s adoption program, the result of personal experiences of the author working in various orphanages, combined with academic studies. The central thesis of the book, that China has allowed international adoption of its children as a means to increase the overall value and productivity of its remaining citizens, is a fairly new idea in the adoption community. Few adoptive parents realize the overall goals and objectives of the Chinese government in encouraging and promoting adoption, and for this single reason alone Wang’s book is a valuable contribution to the history of China’s adoption program.

Wang spends considerable space putting a personalized face on the orphans in China, mostly special needs. Her time in the Haifeng Children’s Welfare Institute (a pseudonym), an orphanage that participated in the international adoption program, illuminates the issues present in the Social Welfare Institutes regarding the severely handicapped. Wang gained access to the Haifeng orphanage as a volunteer for “Tomorrow’s Children,” a Christian faith-based NGO that assisted the orphanage in caring for its special needs children. Her experiences in Haifeng are contrasted with those she had in the Yongping orphanage (also a pseudonym) near Beijing where another group, “Helping Hands,” worked. This group was comprised of expat women who, as Wang describes, were looking to put meaning into their lives as their husbands went off to work.  The contrast between these two groups – how their methods were accepted or rejected by the nannies that worked in each facility, by the government, and by the children themselves, is fascinating to read, and provides a valuable assessment of the damage that “first-world” attitudes can sometimes have in such settings. 

But the core of the book is devoted to the idea that China has allowed the exportation of her children with a simple goal in mind: To increase the overall productivity of its people with the stated goal to become a first-world nation. With this goal in mind, Chinese leaders feel that children abandoned by largely rural, uneducated and less productive birth families in a real sense act as weights to the progress of China overall. By removing these children from the national population, the thinking goes, the government accepts that the remaining population would increase in education and productivity.  Wang states that “Although urban little emperors bear the heavy responsibility of building a glorious future for their country, a much larger number of youths from rural areas are viewed at best as a hindrance, and at worst as a dangerous threat, to Chinese modernization” (p. 29-30). When viewed in this light, the actions of the CCAA and other national governmental agencies can be clearly understood, especially as it relates to ethical breeches and scandals in China’s adoption program. Simply stated, orphanage actions such as baby-buying and Family Planning confiscations achieve a national interest, even if those same actions result in lapses in international treaties and standards. 

It is important to understand that China’s international adoption program was started as a result of advocacy work initiated by World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP), a private adoption agency based in Washington State. This agency was the first to be allowed to adopt Chinese children in 1991 from the Luoyang orphanage in Henan Province, the same Province where Wang volunteered in the Haifeng orphanage.  It was WACAP’s advocacy that convinced the Chinese that the benefits of international adoption in terms of financial resources and outsourcing the costs of childcare outweighed the loss of face. The creation of China’s international adoption bureau, the CCAA, occurred one year later. In 1992, 206 Chinese children were adopted to the U.S. (232 internationally), a number that grew to 4,206 children in 1998 (6,012 internationally), when some orphanages began to feel pressure to recruit children for adoption. By 2002, when 6,119 children were adopted to the U.S. (10,194 internationally), many, if not most, orphanages were heavily involved in baby-buying and other recruitment methods to satisfy the demand for healthy, young infant girls.  In 2005, international press revealed that orphanages in central China’s Hunan Province had been buying babies, and in 2008 families that had adopted older, “aging-out” children from the same Luoyang orphanage came forward indicating that their adoptive children had been lured away from birth families under the false pretense of gaining an education and employment in the West. 

Which brings me to the one objection I have to Wang’s assessment of China’s program. Although Wang gives a hat tip to reports of scandals in China’s program, overall she maintains that the direction of the adoption program is dictated by Beijing. She states, for example, that it is the outcome of the HCIA (Hague Convention) “combined with a proactive effort by the top sending countries – namely Russia and China – to lower the number of kids they place abroad” (p.131) that resulted in the collapse in international adoptions after 2004 (Russia) and 2005 (China). Wang also writes that the PRC “severely limited the supply of healthy girls following the Hunan child trafficking scandal” (p.132), and still later observed that “it is highly significant that, as the country’s global economic position has improved, the number of children it sends abroad has declined dramatically” (p. 148). Intentionally or not, these and other similar statements by Wang imply that the number of children adopted internationally is controlled by the Central Government, controlled from the top down. There is no doubt that this is a commonly held view, even by those involved in the adoption community, but it is largely a misperception.

The idea ignores the well-documented data and experiences in China’s orphanages themselves. There is no question that China’s program took a dramatic turn in late 2005. In fact, when one graphs the findings (the number of children entering the orphanage) by the orphanages in the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Jiangxi, etc., the main providers of adoptable children in 2005, one can see the decline beginning in December 2005, exactly when the Hunan scandal was being reported on inside China. In February 2006, three months after the scandal broke and when the decline was already visible, the CCAA (the office of the national government responsible for international adoptions) began actively pushing orphanages to submit as many children as they could, even severely special needs. When the number of submissions continued to fall, only then did China change the criteria for who could adopt. The lack of definitive action to curtail corruption in the face of various adoption scandals since Hunan should also be seen in this light.

Thus, the decline in adoptions from China was not a result of top-down actions such as Hague implementation, progress in economic circumstances, access to ultrasounds, the 2008 Olympics, or any of the other “macro” explanations that have been given. Rather, it was a bottom-up reaction by millions of Chinese birth families, most of whom learned for the first time in December 2005 that their children were being “sold” to Westerners by the orphanages, and consciously chose to no longer cooperate, largely out of fear for their child’s safety and well-being. As a result, the number of healthy children entering the orphanages fell dramatically, and the apparent emphasis shifted, as Wang documents, from healthy young infants to older special needs children. I say apparent, because it was the disappearance of the healthy children that made the adoption of the special needs children both more desirable by Western families due to the longer wait times for a healthy child, and more visible to outsiders. But the mission of the national government is still firmly in place: Adopt out as many children, healthy or special needs, as possible to elevate the productivity and desirability of the rest of China’s citizenry. 

Wang’s book is a highly interesting view of the China program, and she brings many perceptive and important observations to the conversation moving forward. Do Western NGOs do more harm than good? Are their efforts sustainable? Should the international adoption program be used as a tool of the Chinese government to outsource orphan care? These and many other considerations are addressed and explored by Wang in what is a fascinating read.

Leslie's book can be ordered here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

We Know Who the In-Country Searchers Are, But Are They Any Good?

UPDATED: September 23, 2016

As the Chinese adoptee population begins to mature, a growing industry is developing around the need for many adoptees and their families to search for birth parents and other information. As a result, people inside China, most of whom used to work as agency guides when adoptions were prolific, have now moved into the search industry. The current main players in this arena are "Xixi," "Tiffany," "Jane,"  and to a lessor extent "Bruce Yu." We have written about our own experiences with these searchers on our subscription blog, but we felt polling a larger pool of families, families that have had direct involvement with these searchers, was warranted.

We created a poll asking adoptive families on our search group if they had paid any in-country searcher to seek out their child's birth family.  Eighty-one families responded (interested families are encouraged to submit their own feedback relative to these searchers for future survey updates, which we hope to conduct monthly). The following is a summary of the experiences of these participants, and their assessment of the services they received.

The dominant searcher in China is Xixi, an ex-agency in-country guide based in Guangxi Province. Fifty-six percent of respondents had utilized her services. Families had Xixi search in a wide area, ranging from Guangxi Province to as far away as Zhejiang Province. Families reported that on average they paid from $300 to over $500 for the research, although 20% of faqmilies paid more than $500.

Survey results indicate that Xixi is well loved by her clients. When asked to rate their satisfaction with her services, the forty-six families rated their overall experience as 3.69 (1 = Wish I hadn't done it, 5 = Completely satisfied). All but sixteen respondents rated her 4 or higher.  Common comments touted her quick communication, flexibility, and honesty.  When asked if they would recommend Xixi to other families, Xixi rated 3.80 (Would recommend).

There were a few non-fans (16/46). One respondent commented that they felt Xixi "applied a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, rather than listening to us and hearing what we wanted. We didn't need photos and souvenirs (we'd already been there) and didn't want to pay for that. We were fairly sure the orphanage was involved in our daughter's 'abandonment' and didn't want them alerted to our search, but she went straight to the orphanage director. We wanted her to discreetly interview other people, but all she did was put up posters (which we told her up front was not a priority for us, given the fact that we didn't think our daughter was truly abandoned)."

Of the forty-six families that had hired Xixi, three reported success in locating their child's birth family.

The second main searcher used by families inside China is Tiffany, an ex-shop owner in Nanchang.  Utilized by 10% of respondents, Tiffany's clients were also very happy, for the most part, with her services.  Like Xixi, Tiffany charges families $300 or more for a search, and she has conducted searches in Jiangxi Province and neighboring areas.  Eight families in our survey had used Tiffany's services, and most (63%) rated her as a good or awesome value.  Happy clients emphasized her doggedness and commitment to follow through on leads, etc.  Tiffany's overall client satisfaction average was 3.38.  When asked if they would recommend her to other families, Tiffany rated 3.13 (Nearly neutral).
None of the families that utilized Tiffany in their searches were successful in locating their child's birth family.

A distant third option utilized by families was Jane, hired by five families. In contrast to Xixi and Tiffany, Jane has an average satisfaction rating of 3.4. Jane's fees appear to be lower, with most families reporting they paid between $100 and $300, and no family having paid more than $500.  Jane appears to search predominantly in Anhui Province.

Respondents cite Jane's lack of organization as the major dissatisfier: "The searcher did not appear to be organized for the search and it was a lot of hit and miss for the day of the search plus information provided turned out to be inaccurate by the searcher.  I didn't trust the translation.  It was not matching the expressions of the people that she was talking to and I had to prompt for a translation and I was told often that it was nothing.  Information about the original orphanage location turned out not to be true.  Told us at one point that someone came forward but we had to return to [the city] to meet the person first which the searcher could have done for a cost.  We met with a TV station the day after the searcher left and a much better response where they found the original orphanage, took us to the police station, had DNA taken, the gov. office.  It was suggested that my daughter is from another city further away so it would have been helpful to help us search there."

 When asked if they would recommend Jane to other families, she rated 3 (Neutral). One of the five families reported locating their child's birth family by using Jane.

Out of the eighty-two families that have taken the survey, only eight have obtained birth family information through their searcher: Three with Xixi, one through Jane, and the rest through local contacts such as "Baby Come Home" and other area residents who the family befriended.

As more families participate in the survey, our sample size, especially for lessor utilized options such as Jane and Bruce Yu, will grow, allowing us to make better characterizations.

If you have utilized an in-country searcher to try and locate birth families, please consider completing our survey.  Your experience will help other families to make informed decisions.

Full comments can be read on our information site under the "More" tab, "Searcher Reviews".  

Searcher Survey

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Story of Baby Liu Jia Jia

June 11, 2016: The following message was sent to us by the birth mother, addressed to the adoptive family:

“Please forgive my sudden appearance. I understand you and your family might need time to make a decision, and need time to talk about this with the whole family.
"But I would like to let you know that I am not asking you to return my daughter back to me. I understand my daughter was already became an American citizen, and I believed you love her very much too. I really appreciate your care for her and for adopting her. I hope you and I can make friends, and I just wanted my daughter to know that I never abandoned her or gave her up, and that I love her very much! I hope she is happy!”


The following essay, written by Lan, is a plea to families with children from the Xuzhou, Jiangsu orphanage to try and locate the adoptive family that adopted the child profiled below. Beyond that, there are some important lessons adoptive families generally can take away from the experiences of this family:

1) Many children are transported long distances before being turned into an orphanage.

2) As we have seen in other instances, orphanages almost always work to prevent birth families from locating and retrieving children once they enter an orphanage.

3) This child was abandoned by her paternal family for one simple reason - she was a girl. Gender bias, especially among older citizens of China, still exists.


“I have been looking very hard for my child for three years, and I beg you to share my story to help me make my dreams to find my daughter come true!”

Recently, I received a link to a story posted on-line by a birth mother inside China, “mom of baby Jia Jia,” looking for her missing daughter.

After I got in touch with this birth mother, I was able to learn her story.

The birth mother is 29 years old. She lives in Tengzhou City in Shandong Province. In the first story that she posted on-line on February 17, 2016, she stated “I am an unfortunate woman.”

Below is her unfortunate story:

On December 9, 2012, she was very excited to finally become a mother with the birth of her baby girl, born in the Women & Children’s Health Hospital of Tengzhou City. The next day, her husband and his family came to check her and the baby out of the hospital.  She was with her husband, in her husband’s car, and the grandparents, holding her newborn baby girl, went with the aunt and uncle in another car home. After her husband and she got home, they waited and waited, but the grandparents never showed up with her baby girl. All that night and through the next morning, she waited. Finally she realized her baby girl was gone.

“I started to go crazy, screaming, looking for my baby girl. The next day I found out they had already abandoned my baby girl somewhere secretly, because they wanted a boy, not a girl. They would not say anything, and wouldn’t tell me where they had abandoned my baby girl!” the birth mother told me.

“They did not let me go out of the house to look for my baby girl, and locked me inside the house try to stop me. I started to text any friends that I knew, asking for their help to find my baby girl.”

She searched for her baby girl very hard on her own for a while, but her husband’s family did not cooperate with her in looking for the baby girl. They didn’t provide her the location where they had abandoned the baby. Instead, they did whatever they could to try to stop her, repeatedly threatening her. “That got me very angry,” the birth mother screamed, “Finally, I reported them to the police station for abandoning my baby girl.”

The policemen came, a reporter came. With the police department and the media involved, the birth mother learned her husband’s family had abandoned the baby girl at the First People’s Hospital in Xuzhou City in Jiangsu Province on the night of December 10, 2012. The hospital is about an hour drive from the city where they lived.

In May 2014, after she had spoken to many people in her research, the birth mother finally found out her baby girl had been sent to the Xuzhou City orphanage after she had been abandoned. She went to the Xuzhou City Orphanage immediately, hoping to find out any information about the baby girl. But the director of the orphanage denied that they have accepted any abandoned baby girl.

Then, she went to the Xuzhou City First People’s Hospital, and tried very hard to find the witness who found the girl in the hospital. She located the police officer who was involved with the girl’s finding and who had sent her into the orphanage. With the witness and evidence, as well as a reporter, she returned to the orphanage. This time Director Chen Li of the Xuzhou orphanage admitted that they had accepted the baby girl into the orphanage that night, but that the baby girl had already been adopted by a couple from the United States.

“In front of the reporter and the camera, this time Director Chen Li’s voice was much softer as she admitted that they had accepted my baby girl into their orphanage from the police station. But she told me that before she could provide any information and pictures of my daughter, she would first need to apply to the government to get state approval to allow her to do that. She also needed to ask for permission from the adoptive family, to see if they agreed to get in touch with me.

“In January 2015, I finally got baby pictures of my daughter from the orphanage.”

In April 2015, she went to the CCAA in Beijing. After she explained her story to the security guard who worked there, and with his help, she was able to speak to the principal of the CCAA and told her the whole story. Three days later, she revisited the CCAA and spoke to the principal there again. The principal told her that the CCAA had contacted the Xuzhou orphanage, they found out her daughter’s orphanage given name was “Yang Yu Shao,” and they were 99% sure that she was her daughter. But, the CCAA principal continued, besides this information they had provided her, she would have to go back to the orphanage and figure out a way to communicate with the orphanage and ask their help if she wanted more information about her daughter.

So, she went back to the Xuzhou orphanage after she left Beijing. This time the director of the orphanage told her to give up when she asked for help again, and told her that her daughter had her new life now. “She said I should just go on with my own life now on.  I told her that I will not rest in peace in death if I don’t get to see my daughter of my life.” The director’s response? “Who lives a life without regrets? Your search should end here now. Stop looking for your child, because the fates that you have with your child is just the way it is.”

The next day after her visit to the Xuzhou orphanage, her mother tried to call the director again, asking for her help. The director suggested to the mother that she needed to take the birth mother to see a psychiatrist. “Am I crazy because I don’t want to give up looking for my daughter?!?”

The birth mother concluded, “My daughter should be three years and six months old now. As I found out, she was about 11 months old when was she was adopted by the American family. I am worried that her adoptive family won’t help her to find me at all, and she will never have a chance to know that I love her as much as I love her younger sister who’s next to me. She will never know that she has a little sister who loves her very much, too!”

After her daughter was abandoned by her husband’s family, she and her husband quarreled constantly. Both struggled and tried hard to keep their marriage together,  hoping to have a complete home for their daughter if they found her. Their second daughter was born in March 2014. “She has brought much joy to me, but did not change the fact that I still miss my missing daughter every minute in my heart.”

About half a year ago, she and her husband divorced.

The birth mother would very much like to have her daughter to meet her younger sister, and hopes to stay in touch with her adoptive family as a family member. She also hopes her daughter grows up happy with her life.

“It has been three years that I have been looking for my daughter, since the day after I gave birth to her and her “missing” took my heart away! If not for my youngest daughter with me to hold on to, my life would not be worth living. Please! Help me to find my daughter!”

If anyone has information about this missing baby, please contact us. She was named Liu Jia Jia by the birth mother and Yang Yu Shao by the Xuzhou City Orphanage. Her estimated birth date by the orphanage was 12/1/2012. She has a hyperpigmentation in both her nasolabial groove and left leg.